So what’s the most expensive problem facing American organizations today?

Employees who don’t want to be there.

Recent surveys show that only 29 percent of employees considered themselves engaged, meaning that less of a third of American workers really want to be at their jobs.

As for the rest, 45 percent described themselves as not engaged, or they are basically doing enough not to get fired. The remaining 26 percent of employees describe themselves as actively disengaged, meaning they are actively working against their company.

All of that unhappiness costs a lot of money. Specifically, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees costs US organizations $300 billion annually in lost production.

So here’s the $300 billion question: how do you fix it?

It Starts With Hiring

Earlier this year at a Society for Human Resources Management conference, Performance Programs Inc. President Dr. Paul Connolly said that it is critical to match the rewards your company offers with the desires of aspiring employees.

Connolly used himself as an example. He said what he craves is independence and a compensation plan that directly ties in with the work he produced. Therefore, it would be hard for him to relate with and therefore engage an employee who craved more recognition, more group work and a more structured compensation plan.

“The best way to get people to stay is matching the goodies they want with the goodies you offer,” Connolly said.

How do you find out what a candidate wants? Behavioral interview questions. Connolly said one way is to ask candidates what their biggest accomplishment is or what they are most proud of.

That answer is telling: if a candidate talks about something they did on their own, for example, they likely prefer a more independent environment; if they talk about something they did as a team, they likely prefer a more collaborative environment. If their answers are in conflict with what your company offers, the candidate likely isn’t a good fit.

Training Programs

Once hired, companies have found that a comprehensive training program increases engagement by instilling the company’s core principals into the new employee. While most companies have some sort of training program, Zappos is perhaps the best example of doing it right.

Zappos knows its differentiator is its customer service. So the company has all new employees go through a month-long training program where they learn all aspects of the company, including a week working as a customer service representative.

Here, new hires not only understand the emphasis the shoe company puts on customer service, they also gain some powerful insights into the mind of the company’s customers. So for an engineer that otherwise would never talk to a customer, they can use that reference point while designing an iPhone app, for example.

This creates engaged employees because when Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh emphasizes culture, all of his employees know what he is talking about and accept the mission. Without that training, that mission statement could begin to fall on deaf ears, and the result is less and less engaged employees.

Keeping Them Engaged

If you hire the people who will seek what you offer, keeping employees engaged is going to be much easier. But still, without the right programs in place, employees are beginning to lose interest.

What are the right programs to keep your employees engaged? Again, that is going to depend on the personality of the employees, which is also easier if you have a group that is mostly seeking the same “goodies.”

There have been some creative examples out there that have produced great results. One example on Fast Company explained how, through gamification, a LiveOps customer service call center was able to increase employee engagement, thereby increasing customer retention by 5 percent, which increased profits by at least 25 percent.

What the call center did is offer an optional program that gave rewards if call center employees hit certain goals and even provided them with a dashboard that showed their progress in real-time and how their colleagues were doing. This “friendly competition” resulted in more engaged employees and a 9 percent increase in service levels.

This program might not work everywhere and it was smart for LiveOps to make it optional. But, if you have employees who enjoy competition and you know the right rewards to give out, a program like this could be very successful.

The Solution

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to fixing employee engagement. The key is to understand what your organization is, what it values and what rewards it offers, and finding people who share those principals and seek those rewards. Ultimately, if those don’t match up, no strategy will be able to overcome it.

About VoiceGlance

VoiceGlance is a cloud-based hiring tool used by forward-thinking companies to hire smarter, instead of harder. Learn more here.